Solicitors have been picketing courts since the beginning of the month over government cuts to the legal aid budget. Barristers are due to join in strikes from Monday.
Some lawyers are refusing to take on any new legal aid work, leading to long delays as duty solicitors appointed by the court are swamped with new cases.
Why is the legal profession up in arms?
What is legal aid?
Legal aid was introduced in 1949 under Clement Attlee’s expansion of the welfare state. It covers criminal and civil cases.
Everyone who is arrested for an alleged criminal offence and taken to a police station has the right to free legal advice. But once defendants are charged with a crime they may or may not have their fees paid for by legal aid, depending on their means.
Legal aid budget is also used to help some claimants fight civil cases. There is also a means test and the number of cases that attract aid has shrunk dramatically.
What is the government doing?
The Conservative-led coalition announced a string of reforms designed to bring down the cost of legal aid. (more…)